Every Chinese New Year, Ocean Sky Chan Monastery celebrates a new beginning with an auspicious ceremony. This 2012, the New Year Guan Yin Auspicious Ceremony was held with the chanting of “Universal Gateway of Guan Yin Bodhisattva Chapter” (普門品) from the Lotus Sutra. For 2 weeks from lunar New Year to the 15th, various activities were also set up. On the first floor, visitors sincerely prayed and repented before the Buddha, wrote wishes on cards and drew auspicious Dharma-lots. They could also buy any of the genuine Buddhist artifacts from the charity bazaar. On the second floor, they made bowl offerings to the 18 Arhats. On the third floor, the 10 offerings of incense, flowers, lamps, perfume, fruit, tea, food, jewels, pearls and robes were available for anybody who wished to make offerings to the Buddha. chine newyear In doing all the good deeds, visitors had the chance to develop good karmic affinity with the Three Jewels, at the same time earned merits, eliminated obstacles and received blessings and merits, in order to enjoy smooth lives for the rest of the new year. What better way to celebrate an auspicious and memorable Chinese New Year than to spend it at Ocean Sky!
Ocean Sky holds the Buddha Bathing Ceremony to celebrate Shakyamuni Buddha’s birthday, which is on the 8th day of 4th lunar month. On the day of ceremony, visitors can bathe the baby Buddha with a special auspicious herbal tea in the 3rd floor Chan Hall, or in the ground floor Great Majestic Hall. This tea is also available in bottles for visitors to take home. The activity is extended for one week to give more people the chance to perform the bathing rites. It was said that at the time of Buddha’s birth, nine heavenly dragons appeared and showered the baby Siddhartha with the purest of water. Then, the newborn Prince immediately took seven steps, where at each step, a lotus flower sprang from underneath his feet. With one hand pointing towards the sky and the other towards the ground, he said, “I (Buddha Nature) am the most venerated of all that exist in heavens and on earth. I have come to this world to help all sentient beings be free of suffering.” Every year, by symbolically bathing the baby Buddha, lay disciples purify themselves outwardly by staying away from impure acts, and inwardly by sweeping away all polluted thoughts. Ocean Sky devotees leave the Monastery feeling cleansed and refreshed by this act of inner purification. This is the profound meaning of the Buddha Bathing Ceremony.
The Qing Ming Festival (清明節) is synonymous with the observance of All Soul’s Day in Philippines. It is a traditional Chinese activity, which falls sometime in April, when people and their families sweep the tomb of deceased relatives, or dedicate a memorial ceremony for them. Every year, Ocean Sky observes the Qing Ming Festival by promoting the spirit of filial piety, and holding a gratitude memorial ceremony for all our ancestors. This year, 2012, The Sutra on the Profound Kindness of Parents and the Difficulty in Repaying Them (佛說父母恩重難報經) was chanted. All merits earned were dedicated to our deceased loved ones, so that they could eradicate their karmic obstacles in whatever realms they are in, be free from suffering, and realize their True Minds. This is the true Buddhist way of observing Qing Ming.
In Ocean Sky, Mother’s Day, which is the 2nd Sunday of May, always falls around the time of the Bodhi Star Summer Camp. So, every year, the celebration of mother’s love and sacrifice is held together with the Summer Camp completion ceremony. This year, 2012, the Bodhi Stars chanted The Sutra on the Profound Kindness of Parents and the Difficulty in Repaying Them (佛說父母恩重難報經), as an offering of thankfulness to all the parents who attended the completion ceremony with their children. After the chanting, the children led their mothers to take a seat in front of the Chan Hall, offered their summer camp works of art as gifts, and then lovingly fed their moms chocolate cookies. After the simple ceremony, mother and child openly exchanged messages with each other. With the impromptu expressions of love and support, not a few dry eyes were left in the Chan Hall. It turned out to be a very meaningful celebration of Mother’s Day.
Timed with the monastic practice of holding a summer retreat, Chung Tai Chan Monastery and all branches around the world hold a 3-month daily recitation of the Medicine Buddha Sutra every year from April 15 to July 15 of the lunar calendar. This year, 2012, around 30-50 diligent devotees took time to come to Ocean Sky every night before going home from work to chant the sutra and to recite the Medicine Buddha Mantra for 49 times with mindfulness and respect. After Dharma talks by Abbess or sometimes by the other Masters, all lay people go home filled with great Dharma joy. Medicine Buddha is the Master of Healing. He made Twelve Great Vows to free all sentient beings from diseases of the body, speech and mind, so that all sicknesses could be cured, all hindrances and difficulties resolved, and one’s lifespan lengthened. By chanting the Medicine Buddha Sutra, a disciple comes to understand that the only path to seek in order to achieve true healing from all sicknesses is to cleanse and purify all actions and thoughts.
The Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance Liturgy was chanted previously in Ocean Sky in 2005 and 2009. This year, 2012, the monastery adopted the liturgy for its year-long Saturday night repentance practice. Every week, benefactors, together with their family members, are given the auspicious chance to formally invite the Celebrant Master into the Chan Hall in beautiful and solemn rites. Then, depending on the chapter being chanted, the corresponding material from the ten offerings is offered to the Buddha at the start of chanting. The Liang Huang Jeweled Repentance Liturgy was compiled by Chan Master Baozhi, at the request of Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty for his deceased wife, Empress Chi. Because of her many grave offenses, the Empress was reborn as a python after she died. Her sufferings were so intense that she appeared to the Emperor and begged him to save her. Master Baozhi advised the Emperor to repent and pay homage to the Buddha on Empress Chi’s behalf in order to cleanse her grave sins. The Master then carefully selected the words of repentance from different Buddhist scriptures and compiled the ten-chapter liturgy. Due to the merits generated from the Emperor’s sincere repentance for her, the Empress Chi was reborn in Heaven. For over 1400 years, from the Liang Dynasty up to the present, people have sought out opportunities to recite this lengthy liturgy, because it demonstrates that the act of reflecting back to our wrongdoings, accepting responsibility for them, and repenting with sincerity, can result in blessings and peace of mind.
The Diamond Sutra (Diamond of Perfect Wisdom Sutra) is one of the most important scriptures of Mahayana Buddhism. It tells us that the realization of the emptiness of Buddha Nature is the key to reach ultimate perfect wisdom (prajna). It was upon hearing one line from this sutra that the great Sixth Patriarch Huineng achieved enlightenment. That line was “The mind should act without any attachments (應無所住而生其心).” Prior to 2012, this sutra had always been chanted in Chinese. This year, in order to give the non-Chinese speaking students of the Monastery a chance to better appreciate the profound and precious Diamond Sutra in their study of Zen Buddhism, Ocean Sky held for the first time the chanting of the sutra entirely in English, including the Incense Praise at the start, and Dedication of Merits at the end. By following the English chanting, Filipino cultivators were glad that they could directly realize the significance of emptiness as spoken by Buddha, and helped them to correct all misconceptions that were obstacles to their understanding of true reality.
Ocean Sky chanted The Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance Liturgy as its 2011 year-long Saturday night repentance practice. The liturgy was written during the Tang Dynasty by the Imperial Dharma Master Wuda, who found out first hand that karmic retributions may remain invisible through many rebirths, but must still be repaid. In the mid-9th century, a traveling monk, Zhixuan, chanced upon another monk who was sick with ugly, smelly sores. Instead of being repulsed like everybody else, Zhixuan tended to the sores with care, and the sick monk got healed completely. Before they separated, the recovered monk gave directions to Zhixuan on how to find him in Jiulong Mountain should the latter encounter any difficulty in the future. Much later, Zhixuan was proclaimed Imperial Dharma Master Wuda by the Emperor, and was given a high seat from which to give Dharma talk. Gradually, his mind gave rise to pride. It was at this point that a painful tumor shaped like a human face grew on his knee. The tumor would even ask to be fed, causing Wuda unbearable pain. Because no cure was found, Master Wuda looked for the monk, the sage Venerable Kanaka, whom he healed long ago. The sage reassured him that the tumor could be cured by washing it with pure water from a clear spring. As Master Wuda was about to wash his knee with the pure water, the tumor shouted: “Wait! Let me explain. At around the 2nd century B.C., I was your enemy Chao Cuo, and you were Yuan Ang, who persuaded the Emperor to cut me in half. Before I died, I swore I would seek revenge on you at the first chance. But because you were a virtuous monk who strictly upheld the precepts, I couldn’t harm you for the last ten rebirths. Now, because of your pride, it gave me an opening to seek revenge. But, with the purity of the samadhi water of sage Kanaka, I have been liberated from hatred, and will no longer seek revenge.” The pure samadhi water cleansed away the face-like tumor, and the longstanding enmity. Master Wuda then wrote the Liturgy of Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance, which he chanted every day, morning and night. In Ocean Sky, participants chant this liturgy, hoping they can also wash away longstanding feuds and bitterness in their own minds by reflecting inwards and repenting with a mind of purity and gratitude.
The 88 Buddha Repentance Liturgy has often been chanted in many daytime ceremonies in Ocean Sky. In 2010, this beautiful and melodious liturgy was adopted as its year-long Saturday night repentance practice. The 88 Buddhas are a combination of 53 Buddhas and 35 Buddhas selected from two different sutras. The two sutras stated that by prostrating to the 53 and 35 Buddhas, sentient beings can eradicate four grave sins (四重禁罪), five seditious acts and ten evil deeds (五逆十惡). At the conclusion of chanting, there is this most common repentance verse: 往昔所造諸惡業 All the harm I have ever done, since time immemorial, 皆由無始貪瞋癡 Are caused by greed, anger, and ignorance. 從身語意之所生 And produced through my body, speech, and will; 一切罪障皆懺悔 Now, I confess and amend all. By diligently prostrating to 88 Buddhas, we reflect on and repent the bad habits that keep us from enlightenment. We gradually eradicate greed, anger, and ignorance, in order to open new paths for the future.
Known as the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Guan Yin is very popular among lay devotees in the Philippines. Every time Guan Yin Ceremony is held in Ocean Sky, the Chan Hall is packed with people wanting to pray and prostrate to the Bodhisattva. The ceremony is often held on various occasions each year in the Monastery. In 2009, Ocean Sky found a unique way of converting the entire “Chapter of Universal Gateway of Bodhisattva Guan Yin” (普門品) from the Lotus Sutra into prostration format with different melodious chants. Guan Yin Bodhisattva (Avalokitesvara) means “Observer of Sounds.” The compassionate Guan Yin vows to listen to the cries of any beings who are in distress and to immediately come to their rescue when they single-mindedly chant his name. According to the Universal Gateway chapter, Guan Yin constantly takes on 33 forms, as a man, a woman, a monk, a statesman, etc., according to the needs of the sentient beings, to perfect their wisdom in order to reach ultimate enlightenment. Ocean Sky devotees are always filled with Dharma joy after chanting the chapter and know that by reflecting back to their minds, they can strengthen their inherent compassion to help other beings.
Ocean Sky had two auspicious occasions to chant the magnificent Great Compassion Repentance Liturgy, in 2009 and 2010. The liturgy is connected to the great compassion of Bodhisattva Guan Yin. In the ceremony, the strength of compassion generated from the mindful and reverent chanting opens the hearts and minds of the participants to learn from Guan Yin, and to care for all sentient beings with unconditional compassion. The liturgy focuses on the power of the Great Compassion Mantra of Bodhisattva Guan Yin. With unwavering compassion, he manifests a thousand hands and eyes, as a skillful means to help the needy. The Bodhisattva vowed that if someone chanted this mantra sincerely, but was destined to fall into the three evil realms, and could not get rebirth in buddha lands, the Bodhisattva would not achieve Buddhahood. After the ceremony, disciples in Ocean Sky realized with great Dharma joy that the true cultivation and real essence of the mantra as stated by Guan Yin is “to possess a mind of great compassion, equality, non-attachment, respect, and emptiness.”
Three thousand buddhas jewelled repentance ceremonyOcean Sky adopted The Three Thousand Buddhas Jeweled Repentance Liturgy as its Saturday night repentance practice in 2008. That year, the whole monastery was mobilized to decorate the walls of the Chan Hall with one thousand pictures of Buddha. The magnificent outcome set the mood for the year-long ceremony. The liturgy pays homage to the 3,000 Buddhas of the three periods (eons). These three sets of one thousand Buddhas generally refer to the thousand Buddhas of the past period (莊嚴劫), the present period (賢劫), and the future period (星宿劫). In one past life of Shakyamuni Buddha, he heard the names of 53 Buddhas, and was filled with Dharma joy. He went on to teach many men, until his teachings reached 3,000 people. These 3,000 men altogether praised and single-mindedly prostrated to the 53 Buddhas. With the auspicious merits, they were able to transcend samsara, and attained Buddhahood. Buddhists in the Philippines usually recite this liturgy hoping to ward off calamity, pray for blessings and prosperity in the New Year.
Ocean Sky had chanted the Earth Treasure Sutra on several occasions in the past 10 years, especially during the celebration of Qing Ming Festival. For the whole year of 2007, the sutra was even adapted as the Saturday night repentance practice. “As long as there are still sentient beings suffering in hell, I will not seek Buddhahood,” is the great vow of Earth Treasure (Ksitigarbha) Bodhisattva. In one past life, the Earth Treasure Bodhisattva was a young Indian girl, whose mother had slandered the Three Jewels. When the mother died, the daughter feared that she might descend to hell because of her sins. The girl sold all her belongings, made many offerings to the Buddha of her time and prayed fervently that her mother be spared from hell. With her mindful recitation of the Buddha’s name, her consciousness was transported to the hell realm where a guardian told her that due to her pious prayers and offerings on her mother’s behalf, the latter had ascended to heaven. The girl was happy and greatly relieved. But the sight of the suffering in hell touched her so much that she vowed to do her best to relieve all the beings of their suffering in all her future lives. She became the Earth Treasure Bodhisattva, and continued the great vow. The Bodhisattva realized that all living beings have been his father and mother in the past, and never gave up rescuing them from hell to lead them to Nirvana. Thus, this sutra became known as the sutra on filial piety. That is why it is one of the most popular sutras in Buddhism.
Ocean Sky holds the Grand Meal Offering Ceremony every 1st and the 15th day of each lunar month throughout the year. In the ceremony, participants sincerely join in the rites of making a meal offering to the Buddha, and food bestowal to the sentient beings. This way, they cultivate respect and compassion. Devotees also offer flowers and lamps, and mindfully chant the Diamond of Perfect Wisdom Sutra. This year, for the benefit of non-Chinese speakers, the English version was occasionally chanted. Following the Grand Meal Offering, everybody sincerely pays homage and prostrates to the Patriarchs. Filled with Dharma joy at the conclusion of Dedication of Merits, practitioners also get to enjoy a sumptuous vegetarian lunch.